Standing in the kitchen I was focused on fixing dinner when my teen walked through the back door. Barely looking up, I asked my son how his day went and continued pealing potatoes for the evening meal. He sat down at the kitchen island and rambled on about all the things that had happened during the day. With an occasional glance I would give him my half-hearted “really” as he continued his story. I had other things on my mind–the to-do list of my evening activities.
As soon as he took a breath I interrupted. “I need you to go get your homework finished. Your dad and I have a commitment after dinner and I have several things to do before then.”
I could tell he was frustrated with me. And, yes, I probably should have been more focused on his needs. But life can’t always revolve around when my teen wants to talk, can it?
The truth was, I blew it. It wasn’t in the fact that I ended the conversation. It was in the how I ended the conversation.
Matter of fact.
No consideration for his feelings.
And a “task” that I felt at the time was more important than listening to him.
I wasn’t focused on the relationship.
As parents we all make mistakes in how we interact with our kids. But do we make an attempt to recover from them? Do we learn from our mistakes and think through how we should handle it next time?
As I lay in bed that night thinking through my day, I realized that I needed to apologize to my son. I asked for his forgiveness the next day since I made my agenda for the evening more important than what he had to share. I told him how I blew it and how I wished I could have a do-over. I shared the specifics of what I wished I had done differently. We talked through them setting a plan in place for the next time a similar thing occurred.
- Look him in the eye. Teens want to know that we are really listening and eye contact is a mechanism to bonding. It says they are more important than the task.
- Speak your truth. “I would really like to hear about your day and I only have 10 minutes before I need to get ready for tonight’s activities. Would it be okay if you share the highlights while I peel the potatoes and we’ll talk after your dad and I get home tonight? I really want to hear about what is going on in your world.” This is also where you would give any instructions about the evening.
- If he agrees, position yourself with your task so that there is eye contact during the conversation.
- When time is up, say something positive. “I really love that you come and share your day with me. I just wish I had more time right now. I’ll look forward to our talk later tonight.”
Teens have a lot to process about their world and it is important that we don’t lose sight of the fact that they are willing to talk with us. We want to encourage them to see us as their confidant. One of the most important things we can do to build the relationship is to be a good listener.
Let your conversation be always full of grace, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how to answer everyone.
Sometimes just sitting with our kids, listening as they talk about their day, can give us insight and opportunity to influence their decisions if we validate their feelings and show them acceptance and that they are important in our lives.
Dare you to assess whether you make your teens a priority in your life and handle your interactions with them with respect and humility.
“Let go…and Let God”,
Wish you could help Dad be more intentional in your teen’s life? 365+ Ways to Love Your Family: Practical Tips for Dads of Tweens and Teens is an easy way to quickly help him have a positive way to have influence. In less than a minute each day, he can put an action in place that will teach your kids the language of respect.